Fixing Wages of Chicken Plant Workers

Sep 02, 2019

Jien et al v. Perdue Farms, Inc. et al, Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-02521 (U.S. District Court for Maryland)

A class action lawsuit against the leading chicken producers in the United States for conspiring to fix and depress the compensation paid to hundreds of thousands of workers at chicken processing plants.

The defendants named in the lawsuit include 18 chicken producers and many of their subsidiaries (“Defendant Chicken Producers”)—such as Tyson Foods, Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, and Perdue Farms, Inc.—that produce more than 90 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.  Two consulting companies that facilitate the exchange of compensation data—Agri Stats, Inc. (“Agri Stats”) and Webber, Meng, Sahl and Company, Inc. (“WMS”)—are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The Defendant Chicken Producers operate approximately 200 chicken processing plants in the continental United States.  These chicken processing plants employ hundreds of thousands of workers who process live chickens into poultry products sold to retailers and consumers.  The Defendant Chicken Producers compensate those workers with hourly wages and employment benefits.

The lawsuit alleges that, since January 1, 2009, the defendants have conspired to fix and depress the hourly wages and benefits paid to workers in chicken processing plants in violation of the federal antitrust laws.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants formed, implemented, monitored and enforced the conspiracy in three ways.  First, the lawsuit alleges that senior executives of the Defendant Chicken Producers held recurring “off the books” in-person meetings at the Hilton Sandestin Resort Hotel & Spa in Destin, Florida, during which they exchanged information about, discussed, agreed upon and ultimately fixed the wages and benefits of workers in chicken processing plants at artificially depressed levels.

Second, the lawsuit alleges that, on a highly frequent basis, the Defendant Chicken Producers exchanged detailed, current and non-public wage and benefits information through surveys conducted by Agri Stats and WMS.  The Defendant Chicken Producers used the competitively sensitive data obtained from those surveys to fix and depress the compensation paid to workers in chicken processing plants and ensure that no conspirator deviated from the conspiracy.

Third, local managers of the Defendant Chicken Producers’ plants exchanged compensation information.  Those plant managers frequently reached out to counterparts at rival chicken processing plants to exchange wage and benefits data, including data regarding plans for future wages and benefits.  The data obtained from these plant-to-plant information exchanges was provided to executives of the Defendant Chicken Producers, who used the data to help fix compensation.

The intended and actual effect of defendants’ conspiracy to fix compensation has been to reduce and suppress the wages and benefits paid to workers in chicken processing plants to levels materially lower than they would have been in a competitive market.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a class consisting of all persons employed by the Defendant Chicken Producers as non-supervisory production and maintenance employees at chicken processing plants in the continental United States from January 1, 2009 until the present.  The lawsuit seeks to prevent the defendants from continuing their conspiracy and to recover financial damages for the class of workers.

A copy of the complaint is available HERE.

If you have any questions concerning this case, or would like to share information related to this case, please contact attorney George Farah at [email protected] or 212-477-8090.

 

 

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